Air Fryer BBQ Chicken Legs

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The easiest Air Fryer BBQ Chicken Legs take minutes to make and are slathered with tangy BBQ sauce and a DIY spice mix for extra flavor. These juicy drumsticks are crisp and caramelized on the outside, just like you get from cooking them on the grill. This recipe makes a great appetizer, but is also the start of a family-favorite meal!

A white serving dish holds air fryer bbq chicken legs with more seen in the background.

Why You’ll Love These Air Fryer BBQ Chicken Legs

  • Cuisine Inspiration: American
  • Primary Cooking Method: Air Fryer
  • Dietary Info: Gluten-free, Dairy-free
  • Skill Level: Easy

The air fryer is such a helpful tool to have in the kitchen. When I first got mine, I mainly stuck to Air Fryer French Fries and eventually cooking veggies. Then I learned it’s especially great for making chicken. My family loves anything barbecue, and the results from making barbecue chicken in the air fryer are just as good as cooking them on the grill, and so much easier to do year-round.

We just can’t get enough of the slightly sweet, slightly spicy homemade rub that infuses these chicken legs with delectable flavor. And a coating of BBQ sauce makes them truly irresistible. Plus, it’s a perfect example of a quick-cooking, satisfying dish that can be served as a game-day snack or with vegetable sides for dinner. This is truly a dish that never goes out of style. Here’s why you’ll love this recipe:

  • Air fry and done. Forget deep-frying chicken – your air fryer will do the work of cooking the chicken legs to the perfect texture without needing a lot of oil.
  • Flavorful. First, you’ll rub the chicken legs with a homemade spice blend containing paprika, onion and garlic powders, and chili powder plus a touch of brown sugar. Near the end of the cooking time you’ll slick them with bbq sauce – might I suggest one of my homemade bbq sauce recipes like my bourbon bbq sauce? – to take them over the top.
  • Adaptable. While there’s chili powder in the spice rub, if you don’t like much heat you can easily lower it. On the flip side, if you like spicy bites, add more chili powder or even hot sauce. Play around with the spice blend to suit your taste, too.
Air fryer bbq chicken legs on a red plate with a side of vegetables.

Recipe Ingredients

Here’s a look at the ingredients you’ll find in these bbq chicken legs in the air fryer. Don’t forget to check the recipe card lower down for the full ingredient amounts.

  • Brown Sugar: You can use light or dark brown sugar.
  • Salt: I use kosher salt.
  • Dried Spices: Paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and chili powder.
  • Chicken Drumsticks: I buy skin-on drumsticks. 
  • Oil: You can use avocado or vegetable oil.
  • BBQ Sauce: Use homemade or purchased sauce. Make sure yours is gluten free, if needed. My favorite brand is Stubb’s.
  • Parsley: For ganish.
The ingredients for air fryer bbq chicken legs are shown with text labels including chicken legs, spices, bbq sauce, and oil.

How to Make Air Fryer BBQ Chicken Legs

If you have an air fryer, you’re all set to make these chicken legs! Here’s my simple method for making flavorful, delectable chicken. The detailed instructions are in the recipe card lower down.

  • Prepare. Preheat the air fryer and drizzle oil over the chicken, then rub it in with your hands.
  • Add spice mix. Mix together the spices and brown sugar and sprinkle over the chicken.
  • Cook. Place chicken legs in a single layer in the air fryer and cook, then flip and cook for 8 more minutes.
  • Add BBQ sauce. Brush the chicken with bbq sauce and continue to cook until done.

Tips & Variations

If you want to mix things up a bit when you make these air fryer BBQ chicken legs, go right ahead!

Here are a few variation suggestions, plus some tips to help you make this dish perfectly:
  • Try a different spice mix. The spice mixture can be substituted with 2 tablespoons of your favorite BBQ spice rub.
  • Skip the sauce. Instead of BBQ sauce, you could use my Blackened Seasoning or the spice mixture from my Air Fryer Rotisserie Chicken on these chicken legs.
  • Bring chicken to room temperature. Bringing the chicken to room temperature will help it cook more evenly once you pop it in the air fryer.
  • Dry the chicken. Make sure to pat the chicken legs dry with paper towels before you add the oil and spice rub. If the chicken is too wet, the oil and spices won’t adhere well to the skin.
  • Use a meat thermometer. A meat thermometer is the best way to ensure that your chicken is fully cooked to a safe temperature. The thermometer should read 165°F when the chicken is done, and I advise cooking it to 185°F for the best texture.

Can I make BBQ Chicken Breasts?

Yes! Just use the same spice rub mixture, though you may not need as much sauce, depending on the number and size of your chicken breasts. Cook at 380°F for 6 minutes, then flip and cook for another 4 minutes. Brush with sauce and finish cooking about 2-6 minutes (depending on the size and thickness), until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F.

A hand holds an air fryer bbq chicken leg garnished with parsley leaves.

Proper Storage

Here’s what to do with any leftover air fryer barbecue chicken legs:

  • Fridge – Store cooled chicken legs in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
  • Freezer – Place the drumsticks in a freezer-safe, sealable bag and store them in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw the chicken completely in the fridge before reheating.
  • To Reheat – You can reheat the chicken legs in the air fryer at 375°F for about 5 minutes, or until heated through. Or, using a microwave-safe plate, reheat the chicken in the microwave for about 1 minute.
A tray of air fryer bbq chicken legs.

Make It A Meal

Enjoy air fryer BBQ chicken legs as an appetizer or a quick snack, or round them out into a full meal with potatoes, salad, and more. Here are a few serving suggestions:

A white tray full of cooked air fryer bbq chicken legs.
5 from 1 vote

Air Fryer BBQ Chicken Legs

These easy Air Fryer BBQ Chicken Legs take minutes to make and are slicked with tangy BBQ sauce and a DIY spice mix for extra flavor.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 23 minutes
Total: 28 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 8 skin-on chicken drumsticks , about 2 pounds
  • 1 tablespoon avocado or vegetable oil
  • ½ cup BBQ sauce
  • Parsley , to garnish

Instructions

  • Preheat the air fryer to 400°F.
  • In a small bowl, combine the light brown sugar, kosher salt, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and chili powder. Stir it together until combined. Set aside.
  • Pat the chicken legs dry with a paper towel and place them in a bowl or shallow dish. Drizzle the oil over the top and rub it into the chicken legs to coat them completely. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the chicken and toss to coat thoroughly.
  • Spray the air fryer basket with oil spray (NOT nonstick cooking spray with propellant, like Pam). Place the chicken legs in a single layer in the air fryer and cook at 400°F for 10 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook for another 8 minutes.
  • Open the air fryer and brush the chicken with BBQ sauce on all sides.Then cook for another 3-5 minutes to caramelize the BBQ sauce, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of at least 165°F. Note that chicken legs will stay moist and have a nice texture when cooked to about 185°F. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Nutrition Facts
Air Fryer BBQ Chicken Legs
Amount Per Serving
Calories 346 Calories from Fat 162
% Daily Value*
Fat 18g28%
Saturated Fat 4g20%
Trans Fat 0.1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4g
Monounsaturated Fat 8g
Cholesterol 139mg46%
Sodium 1113mg46%
Potassium 449mg13%
Carbohydrates 18g6%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 14g16%
Protein 27g54%
Vitamin A 470IU9%
Vitamin C 0.3mg0%
Calcium 33mg3%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Disclaimers: Please discuss your individual dietary needs (i.e. gluten free) with a physician. Even when not specified, be sure to verify all ingredients are gluten free, if needed, by reading labels on all packaging and/or confirming with the manufacturer this varies by brand and can change at any time. Nutrition information shown is an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

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